America's next Miss USA could be from Hamden

By Savannah Giammarco

Hamden’s Acacia Courtney now wears a crown -- but she is no stranger to the limelight.

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Though the 26-year-old was crowned Miss Connecticut USA on Jan. 5 at the Palace Theater in Stamford, she's frequently on television in her role as a horse racing correspondent for the Stronach Group, which owns the Gulfstream and Pimlico race tracks.

“I’ve been around horses my whole life and I grew up riding in Connecticut,” Courtney said. “I never thought I could make a career out of horses. Its something that I always loved, but I never thought that I could make it a profession.”

A graduate of Fordham University, Courtney has commentated on notable horse races including the “Triple Crown” which include the Preakness, Belmont and Kentucky Derby races as well as the Pegasus World Cup. She has appeared on national sports channels, including FOX Sports, and has a following that extends on an international scale.

Her love of horse racing came from her own adventures as a child equestrian. Courtney’s passion for horses brought her to the realization that after retirement, whether it’s an unsuccessful career or due to an injury, race horses are often inhumanely disposed of. Most of the time these horses are sent to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered.

“I sat there and I said, ‘I really wish something could be done about that.’ And then I said, ‘I can do something about that,” Courtney said.

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Then, at just 17-years-old, Courtney set out to create her own non-profit 501(c)(3), Racing for Home.

“I went to Suffolk Downs (a racetrack in Boston) on the last day of racing when people were wrapping up, and for a lack of a better term, getting rid of some of these horses that weren’t making the cut,” she said.

Racing for Home takes these horses in and finds them new, loving homes and sometimes, a new purpose. One of the organization’s rescues, Firestar, was repurposed as a hunter/jumper and won second-place overall at the Shallowbrook Cabin Fever Winter Show Series.

Courtney also keeps busy with her preparations for the upcoming Miss USA pageant. At the pageant, Courtney will compete in three phases of overall competition: swimsuit, evening-wear and interview. The top five contestants will then go on to compete in an on-stage question portion.

However, Courtney isn’t new to the pageant stage. In 2015 she took home the title of Miss Connecticut for the Miss America Scholarship Organization, where she went on to place in the top 15 at Miss America. During her teen years, she competed at the 2011 Miss Connecticut Teen USA pageant, where she placed third runner-up, and in 2009 she was awarded the title of Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen.

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When Courtney’s not working out to ensure she’s swimsuit ready or “mock interviewing” to prepare to “wow” the judges during the interview phase, she’s tending to her busy travel schedule.

Courtney just returned home to Connecticut Monday morning after attending the red-carpet MusiCares Person of the Year Gala in Los Angeles.

MusiCares is an effort put on by the Recording Academy that supports artists in times of need. This year Dolly Parton was the honoree, and the gala featured performances by artists such as Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry.

Yet, despite her busy yet philanthropic lifestyle, Courtney said she has a mission for her year.

“Whatever it is that you are passionate about, even if you feel like it’s going to be something so small, you can make a difference.”

Hamden, homepageShayla Colon